I 100% believe that everyone should be able to pursue a career they love and work for themselves if that’s what drives them.
But it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before hand, and to assess your skills and strengths before you do so! So if you want to know if you should become a freelancer, here a few things to consider:
Freelancing is a creative endeavor. From web development to writing, there is absolutely an element of personal creativity, choice, problem solving, and expression in every project we do.
But that’s not what I mean.
When I ask if you’re creative enough, what I’m asking is this: Can you make do?
Can you make do when your fridge looks bare and you’re broke because your client’s invoice is late? Are you creative enough to find a way to still eat a decent meal?
Can you make do when you’re bored and don’t have any client work on the table? Are you creative enough to come up with a project that will keep you busy and help you either get another client, earn additional money, or learn something?
Can you make do when you’re alone for long periods of time during the day? Are you creative enough to find ways to keep your sanity and entertain yourself?
To be a freelancer, you’ll need to be creative enough to overcome unique challenges that many other traditionally employed people do not face. You need to be able to think on your feet and find fun solutions to both daily obstacles and also the big make it or break it opportunities.
One of the biggest tells as to whether or not you should become a freelancer is whether or not you think you’re able to negotiate.
Negotiating your fee is one thing. In a traditional employment capacity you negotiated your salary one time and then no longer had to think about it.
In a freelancer or contractor capacity you are setting and negotiating your fee all the time. It’s easy to see how the ability to negotiate can drastically affect your income and earnings potential, especially when a client sees your price tag and balks.
But freelancers must also use the power of negotiation in several other ways.
Your contract is one good example: do you know where to hold your ground and what to compromise on? Can you win clients over and get them to see your perspective or find a middle ground?
When a client is busting your chops, can you influence the outcome of their power play? For instance, are you able to diplomatically set (and enforce) limits on working hours, revisions, and deadlines? Can you negotiate fair discounts with unhappy clients?
If you’re a web developer, your comfort zone is probably developing websites. It’s probably not webinars, cold calls, networking parties, blog posts, periscopes, dealing with the IRS head-on, etc. From personal experience, I can tell you that every one of those things are (or were!) outside of my comfort zone.
Those are all essential aspects of running a business, though. And sometimes the greatest successes come only when we’ve reached beyond what we know are comfortable with to try something new.
And that’s really hard. REALLY hard. But you have to be willing to do that, because there are functions of successfully running and marketing a business that require you to do so.
The beauty is that by challenging yourself to tackle something outside of your wheelhouse or something you’re uncomfortable with you’ve gained experience that will make it SO much easier next time.
I’ll be honest and say that webinars terrify me, despite being one the absolute best ways to create buzz for your blog and generate income. But speaking on a camera, especially live, scares the crap out of me. What if I sound dumb? What if people hate me? What if I mess up and it ruins my reputation?
But guess what, I’ve got a webinar scheduled for this Monday, January 25 with business pal Jackie from Jade & Oak about the important legal aspects of freelancing. I’m moving ahead, full steam, and I’m hoping that by doing this webinar (with a buddy to help me through it) I’ll be better prepped and less nervous for the next one. If you'd like to come to the webinar, join us here >>
By the end of the year I want to do enough webinars that instead of being outside my comfort zone they are totally within my comfort zone and no longer something I need to stress about or avoid.
This question might seem odd but it’s really important to ask. When you work in a traditional employment setting, even if you’re sitting at a desk all day, you’ve got built-in ways that ensure you’re taking at least some care of yourself.
For one, you have a routine. You’re forced by your boss to get up every morning at a reasonable hour and show up to work.
Your socially obligated to shower and brush your teeth. The trip from your door to your car and random walking around your office to chat with coworkers, use the bathroom, or get lunch all guarantee at least a tiny bit of activity built in to your day.
You’re surrounded by people that you both enjoy and dislike - a key to maintaining balance and practicing self-control and tolerance.
When you’re a freelancer working from home, you have none of those things. You have to be willing to do them for yourself.
You have to actively try to add movement into your day. Believe me, Fitbit owners can attest to how little one actually moves when they don't leave the house. Are you willing to carve out the time to walk around the block, at least to ensure your muscles don’t atrophy?
Getting up each morning, practicing basic hygiene, dressing yourself, finding social situations to practice human interactions are all things you now must be self-motivated to do.
If you’re not self motivated in this area, you could find yourself suddenly a shell of the clean, reasonably fit, socially adept person you used to be.
I don’t actually believe that freelancing is any riskier than any other type of employment situation, at least when it comes to job security and stability. And if you’re interested in starting a freelance business, than I encourage you to sign up for 3K in 30 days here (it's a free email course for new & aspiring freelancers! huzzah!) >>
But some people feel differently about that and if you’re one of them you need to ask yourself if you can actually - emotionally - tolerate risk. If risk is something that genuinely causes you undue stress or distracts you from your work then freelancing might not be the career for you.
Freelancers take all kinds of risks - every new client comes with some level of risk. Big project pitches, hiring staff, going out on a limb for a colleague… all of these things could be part of your job, and they all have the potential to make or break your business.
You need to be able to tolerate, manage, and prevent risk while still making choices that move your business forward. Calculated risks are imperative to your success and an intolerance for it will not suit you well. In fact, freelancers should actually find some level of risk fun and thrilling.
You can totally teach an old dog new tricks, and he’ll be awesome at them.
And that’s really important, cause one day you’re going to be that old dog.
Technological advances mean that whatever you know today probably won’t be that valuable in the future. That’s okay, because doing the same thing without learning new stuff for 50 years sounds pretty lame.
But you have to be good at learning. You have to love learning. You have to see the connection between learning and income. It’s the best way to have a business that never stagnates and never loses its relevance.
Learning new things, and learning them all the time, trains your brain to be more open to new ideas and ways of doing things. It’s a muscle you have to be constantly stretching, and your career with thank you for it.
I hope that helped you get a picture of the skills and strengths you’ll need as a freelancer, and if you have any questions or comments, please share them below. Also, if you’re looking for more info about starting a freelance business, I totally invite you to check out my free course 3K in 30 Days right over here >>